The Perfect Match: Spring Training and Golf 0 36

TPC Scottsdale

Life is Good at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess

Golfers are genetically disposed to shop for deals when they travel to warm-weather golf destinations such as Phoenix, so this may sound counterintuitive:

Stop shopping and remember three words: TPC, Scottsdale and Fairmont – the single best golf value you’ll find this winter.

TPC Scottsdale 15th holeHold on, you say. “He’s talking about a golf course that charges $299 for 18 holes like it’s a bargain. Is he on crack?” for those of you heading to the Valley of the Sun to catch some of Major League Baseball’s month of spring training, Allow me to explain.

The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, a sprawling AAA 5-diamond property, has standard hotel and private condo options, all of which qualify as “luxury” by any definition of the term.

For nongolfers, the resort has proximity to shopping and a luxury spa. For golfers, its golf concierge has a special relationship with the TPC (translation: clout to get a tee time) plus a free shuttle for you, your clubs and your buddies to and from the course.

Spring Training

Team                     Park                              Town

White Sox           Camelback Ranch       Glendale

Dodgers               Camelback Ranch      Glendale

Brewers               Maryvale Park             Phoenix

A’s                        Hohokam Park            Mesa

D-backs              Salt River Fields          Scottsdale

Rockies               Salt River Fields          Scottsdale

Royals                 Surprise Recreation    Surprise

Rangers              Surprise Recreation    Surprise

Indians               Goodyear ballpark       Goodyear

Reds                    Goodyear ballpark       Goodyear

For folks who like an added measure of exclusivity (and you know who you are), there’s the resort’s Fairmont Gold section, a group of 69 separate condos with private lounge, honor bar, hot continental breakfast, secure parking and what seems like a battalion of staff ready to do guests’ bidding.

The TPC golf experience is rock solid, unlike anything else you’ll find in Arizona or in Florida. The forecaddies who run ahead and spot your ball are so good reading their greens that when they say two balls out, they mean two balls out, no more, no less.

And there’s the 16th hole on the Stadium Course, where you can get a sense of the Roman Coliseum drama during the Phoenix Waste Management Open of playing a tee shot inside a stadium bigger than most minor-league baseball parks.

The TPC’s practice facilities are as superb as are the course conditions. If you’re on the range and hitting out of a divot, it’s because you just made that divot. And the clubhouse and on-course service is attentive but not intrusive.

Now, let’s talk about that $299 greens fee.

That’s the daily-fee rack rate. Only a cigar-chomping fat cat who just rolled up in a limo without a tee time pays that.

fairmont-scottsdaleInstead, sign on for a TPC stay-play package through March 31 that gets you three nights at the Princess, a round at the TPC Scottsdale Stadium Course, another round at the TPC Champions Course (no slouch of a course, by the way), commemorative bag tag, forecaddie and range balls – all for $579 per golfer, double occupancy.

Also included in that deal are three hours of personalized instruction at the TPC’s TOUR Academy, free club rentals if you need them, and 50 percent off for a day at the Fairmont spa.

If you do the math, you’ll see that sometimes the ala carte discount option isn’t always the right play when the goal is scoring real golf value.

Dan Vukelich, former editor of Sun Country Golf magazine, in Albuquerque, N.M., is the editor of ABQ Free Press, an alternative newspaper. He is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America and the Golf Travel Writers Association. Reach him at dan@freeabq.com.

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Los Cabos’ Quivira: Pebble Beach in Mexico 0 47

Quivira Golf Club No 6

Nicklaus Tested by Beautiful, Severe Baja Terrain

“Have you ever walked the golf course,” I asked Quivira Golf Club Los Cabos’ director of golf, Antonio Reynante.

“My assistants and I tried it once, but we couldn’t get past Number 6,” the fit-looking 35-year-old former mini-tour player told me. “We had to call the shop to come out and take us back in golf carts.”

It wasn’t an indictment of his staff’s physical conditioning so much as a testament to architect Jack Nicklaus’ ability to design a golf course that starts at 30 feet above sea level and climbs to nearly 400.

Quivira Hole No 15 “I thought it was a very challenging yet spectacular piece of property,” Nicklaus said when the course opened in 2014.

“I hope most people will think it’s the most spectacular golf course and the best golf course they have ever seen. And yes, some other people will say, “You have got to be kidding.

That’s an honest appraisal. A cynic might say that Quivira is just a clown’s mouth or windmill away from goofy golf, but in my mind Nicklaus cast aside his usual highly engineered approach; instead, he let Quivira’s landscape dictate an appealing compromise between playability for the vacationing player, visual impact and sustainability.

The result is a track that Golf magazine named “Best New International Course” in 2014. In 2016, Golf Digest gave it the magazine’s Editor’s Choice award for best golf resort in Mexico or Central America.

The Challenge

Part of The Golden Bear’s solution to the challenging elevation changes at Quivira is the longest cart path I’ve ever ridden – 1,500 meters, or just shy of a mile – switch-backing its way 250 vertical feet along the flank of a massive dune-topped granite ridge rising above the ocean.

The ride is both exhilarating and relaxing, much like the first long ascent on an amusement park roller coaster. As you climb between Nos. 4 and 5, the views of the receding golf shop, beach, and the occasional humpback whale breaching well beyond the surf break are reasons enough to pat yourself on the back for choosing Cabo.

Quivira Golf Club Hole No 5Cresting the last switchback to the No. 5 tee box brings a truly vertigo-inducing view – the kind that snaps your senses to full alert, makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, and announces in no uncertain terms that, yes, your golf vacation has finally begun.

To the left: the Pacific Ocean and a sheer drop of 280 feet. To the right: the ridge rising higher still. To the front: a narrow ribbon of grass leading to an unseen green dangling some 100 feet below the layup spot in the fairway. The putting surface itself is perched 125 feet above the surf.

It’s not often I’m thankful to see a “Cart paths only this hole” sign, but this was one of those times. The thought of our cart launching us a la “Thelma and Louise” into the ocean fleetingly crossed my mind.

Quivira No 6 holeThe Par 3 6th is no less spectacular. I’ll let the course description do the talking: “The tee shot must find and hold a long narrow green that drops off to a cavernous bunker and oblivion on the left.”

“Oblivion” would be the Pacific. From the back tee box, the putting surface is but a speck of green 180 yards away, sky blue above, ocean blue to the left, granite brown to the right.

Multiple Personalities

Quivira Golf Club No 13Once the course turns inland, the rest of Quivira’s holes range in personality from those you’d find on the sandy links courses of Scotland to those you’d find in Scottsdale or tucked in the folds of the hills and ravines of Northern California.

What you’ll likely not find elsewhere, though, are Quivira’s four staffed, on-course food and beverage stations, where complimentary beer, wine, tacos and other hand-held fare are freely offered. The halfway house, called the Oasis, features regional cuisine and a full tequila bar.

Pueblo Bonito Hotel and poolQuivira is part of the Pueblo Bonito family of resorts, which has three Cabo hotels, the Pacifica, an adult-oriented beach-side hotel, the Sunset Beach, a family-oriented hotel sited next to a 161,000-square-foot central food market, and the Greco-Roman-themed Rose Resort. For those seeking extra privacy, affiliated residential communities offer condos and freestanding ocean-view villas for rent.

If You Go

What: Quivira Golf Club Los Cabos, Pueblo Bonita Resort

Where: Cabo San Lucas, Baja Sur California, Mexico

When: Moderate temperatures year-round

How much: Greens fees, $227-$370, depending on season; $213 per round as part of a three-round stay-play package. Rooms start at $466 a night.

All the Pueblo Bonito properties in Cabo offer activities that include swimming with the dolphins, whale-watching, jet skiing and guided fishing trips. All offer a variety of spa treatments.

Getting to Cabo San Lucas is a snap, with easy connections through Phoenix. One wrinkle you should know about: For a reason no one I asked could explain, you can take golf balls in your carry-on baggage on the flight to Cabo but Mexican authorities will confiscate them before you board on your return.

 Dan Vukelich is the senior editor at ABQ Free Press, a former editor at Sun Country Golf magazine and editor of newmexicogolfnews.com. Reach him at dan@newmexicogolfnews.com.

Phoenix’s West Valley Gets a Winner with Victory Club 1 68

Verrado Victory Golf Club

Rocky Foothills Now 7,258 Yards of Emerald Fairways

The Phoenix Metro just got another great new golf course — the Victory Course at Verrado Golf Club in the West Valley — that can be had for an introductory rate of $99, with a replay for $25.

This one’s a must-play for Spring Training fans flocking to the Valley of the Sun to see Cactus League baseball in a couple weeks. It’s off I-10, about 12 miles northwest of the Metro’s western-most Spring Training venue, Goodyear Ball Park, where the Cleveland Indians and the Cincinnati Reds train.

Designed by PGA Tour player Tom Lehman, the Victory Club was built on a former proving ground for Caterpillar heaviest and toughest earth-moving equipment.

Victory Club at VerradoLehman called his new layout “surreally beautiful.” He said the rugged rock environment dramatically contrasts against “immaculately maintained fairways and greens.”

In every way, he said, “We’ve truly used whatever the land has given us and left the terrain all natural, so it looks like the course has been built right into the land. In fact, I can’t think of another course in Arizona that is quite like it.”

The Victory Club is the first course to open in the West Valley since its sister course, Verrado, opened in 2002. Its opening coincides with Arizona’s peak golf season.

“Because Victory’s debut is so special, we wanted to do something special for our guests, too,” said Doug Foss, director of marketing for Verrado Golf club. “We know there has been a lot of anticipation about the course opening, and I think what people will find when they come and play it is that Tom Lehman has really added another true gem to the Arizona golf scene.”

The Victory Club is 32 due west of Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, hard against the White Tanks Mountains.

To play Victory now for just $99, and get the replay, which the club is calling “the bounceback round,” for just $25, visit www.verradogolfclub.com or call (623) 388-3000.

Dan Vukelich, former editor of Sun Country Golf magazine, in Albuquerque, N.M., is the editor of ABQ Free Press, an alternative newspaper. He is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America and the Golf Travel Writers Association. Reach him at dan@freeabq.com.